This morning I went down to Health Sciences/Jubilee LRT Station for the grand opening of Edmonton’s two newest LRT stations – McKernan/Belgravia (114th Street and 76th Avenue) and South Campus (116th Street and 65th Avenue). Construction of the 2.3km extension south from Health Sciences began in 2005. Regular transit service begins tomorrow.
I received the media advisory about the event earlier this week, and had to read it twice:
To ride the ceremonial train, media MUST park in the designated parking lot at South Campus. From there, media and dignitaries will board an ETS shuttle at 9:15 a.m. which will travel to the Health Sciences Station where the LRT will depart as part of the official opening ceremonies.
This is a transit event, yet the media must drive and park? They could have at least encouraged everyone to take the bus or train! I understand the media sometimes carry a lot of equipment, but seriously. Sharon and I took the train to Health Sciences and met the group there. I was happy to see that ETS seemed to consider bloggers and other citizen journalists part of the media, though I suppose it would have been logistically impossible to turn anyone away (the train was packed).
In any case, we got to ride the first public LRT train on the new south extension. We stopped for a short ceremony at McKernan/Belgravia, where a group of residents had gathered to welcome the arrival of the first train. The total trip from Health Sciences was about two minutes:
Next of course, was the trip to South Campus. I sat across from Mayor Mandel, who happily chatted with everyone around him. At one point he said of the extension: “This is great, but it’s history now. We need to keep going.” He later reiterated this in his official remarks. Fortunately, construction of the track to Century Park (formerly Heritage) is well underway (and should open in April 2010). The trip from McKernan/Belgravia to South Campus was also about two minutes:
The South Campus LRT station also had a large group of people to welcome the train, and played host to the ETS Community Fair after the opening ceremony. Mayor Mandel, Minister of Labour Rona Ambrose, Minister of Aboriginal Relations Gene Zwozdesky, and University of Alberta VP Facilities and Operations Don Hickey all said a few words and participated in the unveiling of the commemorative plaque.
I was struck by how empty the area looks – there’s not much around the station right now. It will become a major transit hub however, as ETS is re-routing bus service to feed into the LRT system. You can read about all the transit service changes here.
The opening of these two stations is a great thing for Edmonton. I look forward to many more LRT station launches in the hopefully not-too-distant future. You can see more photos of the event here. The official news release is here.